Dorthy.com, a site we've been hearing about since late last year, has just raised $4 million from angel investors for their "new agey" concept of a search engine for dreams. Currently in private alpha, the site makes fluffy claims about how they're "reversing the traditional search process, continuously filtering and focusing the Universe of online content, to connect you with the best stuff around your interests and aspirations."
If you're not clear on what exactly that means, don't feel bad... but don't write them off either. Instead, think of Dorthy.com as a new take on the old 43Things, the site which encourages users to list goals, share progress, and cheer each other on. Dorthy does the same but gets you there by making interesting use of Web 3.0 technologies like AI and natural language search.
Semantic Search for Dreams
According to Jim Anderson, the About.com co-founder who was hired as Dorthy's CTO earlier this year, the site's search engine doesn't use keyword-based search but rather has the user enter a fully formed question, statement, or phrase like "run a marathon in 4 hours." Not only does the search engine parse the semantics of your input using its proprietary algorithms, it also learns from you, incrementally enhancing your results upon every visit.
As an example, Anderson describes how a fictional user named Jennifer might search for information about a trip to Paris. Because Jennifer had previously shared other background information like the fact that she's an avid marathon runner, fluent in French, wants to learn to cook French food, and hates cruises, Dorthy.com will retrieve specific information related to those interests. The results would be filtered to highlight info on cooking schools, shopping, and popular running routes in Paris - things that would be interesting to Jennifer specifically.
This example doesn't even necessarily count as a "dream," it seems - you could plan an actual trip to Paris using Dorthy's technology, too. However, the overall point of the service is to provide you with information about a particular goal or aspiration and then connect you with others who feel the same.
When performing searches on Dorthy, you'll have the option to create your own page on a specific topic or view the topic pages others have already created. These pages feature popular articles, videos, photos, and blog entries from the web and are constantly being updated with new content. When you find content you like, even if it's on someone else's page, you can easily copy it over to a page of your own.
After this initial "discovery" process is complete, you can use Dorthy's "Connect" feature to meet others also interested in your topic so you can share your progress and encourage each other, much like how the above-mentioned 43Things operates.
In the future, Dorthy hopes to expand their offering to go beyond simply being a consumer-targeted Web-based service to one that could benefit the enterprise (think "I want to go to a virtualization conference in Las Vegas"), or so reported eWeek earlier this year. They also plan on moving to mobile at some point, too.